In case you missed it, the presumptive number one pick of this year’s amateur draft, Mark Appel, fell to the Pirates with the eighth pick. The new draft cap rules have made it unclear whether the Pirates will be able to sign Appel, who is represented by Scott Boras. If he demands a bonus that he would have commanded had he gone where projected, and the Pirates gave it to him, that would equal their entire budget for the draft. As such, this is a legitimate question. It seems clear to me that the Pirates will not give Appel such a bonus. Instead they will offer him something in the neighborhood of the slot value of their number 8 pick (probably a little more). The question then becomes whether Appel will sign for this amount of money or go back for his last year at Stanford.
The first way to figure out if Appel will sign is to examine whetherAs far as I can tell, it would be in Appel’s interest to take such a deal. It seems that while Appel was widely considered the best player available in this draft, he lacked the same ceiling as a typical number one pick. That is to say, this particular draft lacked the kind of impact player that is normally taken at the top (i.e. he’s not as good as Gerritt Cole or Jameson Taillon). This means that in next year’s draft, which is supposed to be stronger, he might not be a top 10 talent. Especially under the new draft rules, being taken outside the top 10 would cost him millions of dollars.
Even if he is taken at or above the 8 slot, he would probably still receive a smaller bonus, because he will be a college senior. College seniors have very little leverage in draft negotiations because they don’t have a good alternative to signing. They can’t go back to school and wait for another draft like a high schooler or college junior can. As such, it probably makes sense for Appel to take the $3 million that the Pirates will offer him.
While that is good news, there is another factor at work here: the notorious Scott Boras. While Boras works for Appel and is paid according to how Appel is, I don’t think that Appel’s interests will be Boras’ only motivating factor.
Boras also works for many other baseball players, and will be going through this process many more times. If Boras accepts slot value for Appel, which, as I’ve said, I think is best for Appel, then Boras sets a precedent that slot value is all that a player can command under the new system. Especially since Boras is the agent that everybody expects to beat this new system, a failure on his part to do so would send a message that to do so is impossible; if it was possible Boras would have done it.
Under ordinary circumstances, sending an agent in to negotiate for you is smart: they are professional negotiators and their interests align with yours. However, this case is far from ordinary. I am worried that Boras will use the case of Mark Appel to send a shot across the bow of Major League Baseball. In my opinion, if Appel doesn’t sign with the Pirates, it will be because Boras doesn’t want to set a precedent of following slot values for a player projected as a top tier talent who fell in the draft.
Obviously, I am worried that the Pirates won’t be able to sign Appel because of this situation. The idea of a Cole, Taillon, Appel 1-2-3 punch in the rotation for the Pirates actively excites me. That said, my chief worry in this case is that Mark Appel gets hurt by his unfortunate situation. He has, unfortunately, become a test case. In the end, being a test case may cost him millions of dollars and a year of professional baseball and, by extension, development/service time.
So, in the end I hope that either Appel is smart enough to see where his interests lie or that Boras is ethical enough to properly represent him without acting for his own interests with other clients. Otherwise Appel could be caught in a crossfire that damages his finances, reputation, and baseball future. I really hope that that doesn’t happen to someone who is, in the end, a 21 year old college kid.